Today George Osborne will reveal his budget plan, undoubtedly with some swingeing cuts to various services. I am hoping that he can see clearly enough to invest in mental health services.
I have been involved with a situation this week that required me to confront head on someone’s mental health issues.
Some of it was comical if you sit back from it, but it’s certainly had me thinking.
There are regularly little memes and ‘mental health’ notes floating around social media, often jpeg images posted by the same people who also post memes about cutting out people who are negative from your life. It’s thoughtless, easy support, but generally echoes what people are feeling at the time so I never care too much about it.
For me there’s an elephant in the room that no-one really wants to address. We want our mentally ill people cured by acts of kindness, by a cuddle, by the cup of coffee bought for a stranger.
The reality is much, much harsher. Befriending a mentally ill person can put our health and well-being and that of your family/friends at risk. You invite an apparently beautiful person into your life, maybe into your home, only to find that they come packaged with an illness that isn’t them, but which affects the very core of your relationship with them.
The downtrodden mental health victim waiting for charity is something of an illusion. In my albeit limited experience, often the situation that has lead someone into a severe mental health issue has also required them to be a master of covering it up, the royalty of the denial world, with the cunning of a fox.
I had been following a conversation in TEN, The Thought Expansion Network, where we briefly discussed reality – and how much of it is real. And how much is our own reading of the World and events.
Imagine a reality where everyone Jewish is a threat. Or everyone Catholic. Or the Reds (socialists) are out to get you. Where ugly people want to do you down because you’re beautiful. Where people are jealous of your beautiful body and want to sleep with you, no matter sex they are – which means you have to be really wary. Where the places you’ve been are way below your social station. Where the people offering you help are trying to control you. Where you can’t remember yelling these things in someone who loves you’s face.
This was someone else’s reality that I came face to face with last week. It was like this person disappeared down a rabbit hole into a world of madness, and popped up at the other end the same as always. Normal rules of engagement don’t apply.I dealt with it badly, a reflection of my own weaknesses, imperfections and insecurities (and yes, we all have some unless we’re a problem on the mental health scale ourselves).
But mental health is the Cinderella service. It’s the service that, if well funded, could reduce budgets in a million other places, from doctor’s surgeries to police cells. It’s the service for people that have no voice. It’s the service that deals with the stigmatised, the unpalatable, the elephant in the room.
I’m also conscious that the structure of services, the devolution to councils, is wasting time and money, as departments and councils shift responsibilities to meet their own rules/criteria and to push the budget onto others.
Facing a friend’s mental health issue head on left me paralysed emotionally. I had every ounce of my being and self belief stamped on, and I reacted in a way that the sufferer didn’t need. I was angry and frightened with someone who needed my kind and gentle side.
Why would I admit this when I’m developing a business that deals in part with people managing mental health issues? Doesn’t this prove I’m not fit to run the company? Trust me, it’s a question that had me paralysed for a while.
I was hugely impressed with mental health team at Wokingham Council who made me feel better by acknowledging the mental exhaustion and stress that comes hand in hand with confronting mental health issues. A friend described similar feeling when dealing with her mother when she had dementia.
And the end result of my deliberations is that yes, I’m better qualified than ever before to take this forward.
People who have to deal with this kind of mental abuse and manipulation daily deserve far more than we pay them through the public purse. Putting more resources into mental health would reduce doctor’s queues, free up hospital beds and reduce crime and violence. Can you really say that the people who cope with this awful, awful situation deserve to earn less than a bank clerk? That they don’t deserve to earn enough to take themselves off for a complete break somewhere nice each year?
I can’t put it all right. I can’t change an entire society’s value system. But I can sure as hell try and create a slightly fairer system that rewards the very best care, and my Care Locker resolve and determination has absolutely been strengthened by my experience.
I just hope Mr Osborne has good advisers.